I first thought this was an April Fool's story, but it's not. According to Guardian UK, a group of nuns is pushing Goldman Sachs
The Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, the Sisters of St Francis of Philadelphia and the Benedictine Sisters of Mt Angel -- all investors in the bank -- have put their name to a proposal to review its remuneration policies, after it emerged its five most senior employees were collectively awarded $69.5m (43m pounds) in pay last year.
The proposal calls for evaluating whether Goldman's compensation is excessive, how laying off low-level workers affects senior executives' pay, and how fluctuations in revenue affects senior executives' pay.
The group is made up of Goldman shareholders, so they're entitled to request this proposal. In fact, kudos to them for exercising their shareholder rights.
But be realistic. These almost certainly are not longtime Goldman investors looking after shareholders' interests. This is quite likely a (perhaps justified) short-term targeted campaign protesting executive pay's effect on society.
If that's the case, here's a question: Why pick on Goldman?
Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein made $19 million last year. This is practically par in the CEO world. According to data from Capital IQ, Occidental Petroleum
So why the fuss?
I think the problem people have with banker pay isn't that they feel it's unjustified. Frankly, it often is justified, for the same reason Irani's, Ellison's, and Palmisano's pay is justified: Talented bosses can create huge profits that warrant huge paychecks.
It gets touchy with banks because when banks face a crisis, the burden is often paid by everyday folks. You may have never heard of a credit default swap, but you might lose your job because of them. Bankers cause collateral damage. That doesn't happen in many other industries. When WorldCom went bankrupt, its shareholders, debt holders, and employees suffered. That was it. When Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, every inch of the global economy took a hit. The mistakes of bankers cause very real social ramifications in ways other industries can't. That's why so many people -- even nuns -- become outraged at their compensation.
What about you?
Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Fool owns shares of International Business Machines and Oracle. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.